Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for the ‘Daredevils’ Category

Finding the Famous

In Daredevils on September 10, 2015 at 4:17 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

Blondin 3

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I love when the giants of history intersect with everyday life.  Many interesting and famous people find their way to Niagara Falls and often stay awhile.  In the winter of 1858 a man known as Charles Blondin (Jean Francois Gravelet), a tight-rope walker, came hoping to become the first person to cross the Niagara on a high wire.  By June of 1859, to a crowd of about 25,000 thrill seekers (on both the Canadian and American sides) he crossed the river while a band played “Home Sweet Home.”  I happened to come upon Monsieur Blondin (and Madame) while looking through an old church record book from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Niagara Falls.  Apparently, Blondin, along with being a daredevil, was a regular church-goer.  There is a little note stating that the couple “removed to London, England.”  They weren’t here for very long, but they were here and they walked among us…as well as over us and our beautiful river.

Blondin

“The Great Blondin” made several unusual and successful journeys across the rope at Niagara Falls.  Sometimes he carried things such as a camera (the large old-fashioned kind). Other times he did crazy acts on the wire such as walking backwards, laying down, walking with a sack over his head, pushing a wheelbarrow.  He somersaulted and back-flipped…all without losing his balance.  He performed for President Millard Fillmore on July 15th.  He crossed at night in shackles.  He ate a piece of cake (while sitting on a chair and at a table–which he brought with him…onto the wire!).  Perhaps in his most outrageous feat, he actually carried a stove and cooked an omelet from the wire and lowered the breakfast to passengers on the Maid of the Mist.  It was estimated that Blondin walked the rope over Niagara Falls 300 times–walking more than 10,000 miles.

Blondin reading a newspaper. Courtesy the Niagara Falls Public Library.

Blondin reading a newspaper. Courtesy the Niagara Falls Public Library.

We have a special fondness for our Niagara Daredevils…people who fight against the odds.  It is especially fun to know that they are like us in so many ways.

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Make sure you check out the special “Daredevil” photo collection on NY Heritage website, from the Orrin E. Dunlap Collection, Niagara Falls Public Library:

http://www.nyheritage.org/collections/daredevils-niagara